Ohio State's push for New Orleans is essentially a four-round tournament that started last week. The Buckeyes scored a decisive first-round win in taking out Penn State. Now they come to a quarterfinal game at home with Wisconsin. Win here, and they can advance to the semis against Illinois and ultimately the finals in Ann Arbor.
No one can say they haven't earned it if they run that gauntlet. And this matchup looks good for them too. Wisconsin will have a hard time going anywhere on offense without P.J. Hill--well, come to think of it they'll have a hard time going anywhere with P.J. Hill. Last week, with the star running back healthy, the Badgers come firing out of the starting blocks and had a 17-0 lead before the students even had all their morning Bloody Marys finished. When Hill left the game with a foot injury, the offense bogged down. And with primary backup Lance Smith unable to travel to road games, that thrusts freshman Zach Brown into the fire. Brown did not run well in his chances last week, often looking tentative.
If Wisconsin can't run, they won't pass well either. Three weeks ago at Penn State, Tyler Donovan got off to a good start. But after the Lions moved out to a 10-point lead and could tee off on Donovan, he struggled badly. If the running game is removed--whether it be by Hill being out, being less then effective or the team falling behind--Donovan is not likely to fare any better this time around.
Historically, the Badgers have played well at Columbus. But this year's matchup doesn't bode too well for them. As Jeff Potrykus of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes, OSU is a tough nut to crack.
The Big Ten's three "I's" have winnable games in their push for bowl bids and/or positioning--
Iowa faces Northwestern and the Press-Citizen reports that the Hawks should finally be healthy.
Illinois takes on lowly Minnesota. The Gophers are playing no defense, as Chip Scoggins at The Minneapolis Star Tribune points out. This game is another chance for the Illini to really get back on track, after a sluggish win against Ball State.
Ball State is next up for Indiana. The Hoosiers need only one more win to become bowl-eligible (though they may need two to actually get an invite). With BSU, Northwestern and Purdue remaining, it's very doable. But right now, nothing else matters in Bloomington except the recruiting scandals surrounding Kelvin Sampson, and that's what's discussed on the blog of The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens.
Before Hutchens, the Star and the IU administration get their collective panties in a bunch over the recruiting excesses of the new regime, they might want to remember what's really important--even though their basketball program is being dragged through the mud and starting the long, slow descent to Kentucky-esque standards, they can take heart in the fact that at least the basketball coach didn't actually take a student by the arm and instruct them to call him "Mr.' or "Coach" rather then his last name. That, as we all know, is the unforgivable sin.